Lots of people seem to really dig these kinds of posts. Personally, I can’t stand them. However, with what turned out to be an amazing ride, I thought it might be a bit of help to those who might want to attempt something super epic like this but may not have the newest equipment or the coin for the latest and greatest. I haven’t sought sponsorship for a couple of years now, so I’ve been doing my best to take care of my equipment. I think some readers will be surprised when they see what I rode. Keep in mind that I am 6’5″ and weigh 200 lbs.
Frame: custom 29er ti hardtail with Paragon sliders (4 years old)
Front wheel: WTB hub, Stan’s 355 Rim, DT spokes with alloy nipples (3 years old built by me), Ashima 180mm rotor, Mavic crossmax skewer
Rear Wheel: DT 340s 8/9/10 speed hub (5 years old), Stan’s 355 rim, 2 cross DT spokes with brass nipples on the drive side built by me, 160 Magura wavy rotor, crossmax skewer
Tires: front WTB WeirWolf LT 2.55 60tpi, rear WTB Exiwolf 2.3 120tpi brand new
Drivetrain: 6 year old (???) XTR 180 mm cranks with outer spider ground off, 32 t Blackspire chainring, Chris King BB, Crank Bro’s chromoly spindle pedals (brand new), Endless Bikes 22t aluminum rear cog, SRAM SS/BMX chain.
Brakes: 7 year old Magura Marta SL’s
Cockpit: Ritchey carbon with 5 year old Ergon GC-2 (I think), little dinky bell, mid-level FSA stem, Chris King Headset
For the rear end: Moxey Pro seatpost (15 years old but in and out of storage as a backup post to a much looser one), brand new WTB Silverado with NiCro rails.
As you can see, this rig is just a plain old solid ride with some of the most reliable equipment found in the industry. If there is a secret weapon, it’s the Moxey seatpost. Thanks to the idiots at Cane Creek, you’ll never find one of these on the market. It is by far the best suspension seatpost on earth with 3 inches of travel and the elastomer has a damped return stroke. It made a bit of noise, but I didn’t care. If there was one thing I’d change on this bike, it would be the brakes. While they worked excellently, I could probably save a bit of energy with something that has bigger pads like a set of Sram/avid XO or even an older set of Elixers.
Daily ride wear: Cheap Canari shorts, mostly white full zip jersey, SOS Merino Wool multi-sport socks, Giro gloves, Rooly mirrored sunglasses, Shimano M-087 size 51 shoes with Superfeet insoles (almost brand new when I started), Bell Influx helmet with 4 year old AyUp lights on top.
Backpack: Osprey Talon II, 100 oz. camelbak bladder (5 years old), Mont Bell UL down jacket, Pearl Izumi rain jacket, Park multi-tool, Spot II, 6 extra AAA batts and 4 extra AA batteries, full size shock pump, crank bros mini-tire pump, small container of Okole Stuff, sample bottle of ProGold Extreme lube, earplugs.
Gas tank: Lots of snacks, chap stick, cell phone, small CT guide book.
Bar bag: Smith glasses with clear, yellow, and mirrored lenses in hard case with lens cleaner. Toothbrush, toothpaste, saddle sore meds, Aleve, Visine, and a 15 pack of anti-bacterial wet wipes.
Sleep gear: stuffed into a stuff sack I made that is held in by a sling/harness system I designed and made as a Thermarest NeoPro air matress extra long, Mont Bell spiral hugger long 30 deg, and a homemade Tyvek bivy. In the bottom of the bag I had a thermarest repair kit.
Main frame bag: My frame bags are a 2 section system. The bottom section velcros to the top bag and bolts into the bottle cage mounts. In the top bag I packed a full length pair of Sugoi rain pants, extra pair of socks, extra shorts, wool short sleeve tee, wool arm and knee warmers, wool knicker underwear, micro fleece beanie, Fenix tactical flashlight with AA batteries, and as much food as I could possibly fit inside. I started with 4 MRE entrees and heaters as well as some MRE crackers, bread, and squeeze cheese. The lower bag held a repair box that had a spare cleat and bolts, some chain links, a chain master link, super glue, patch glue, 6 patches, needle and thread, 3 sets of slightly used brake pads, and a Leatherman Micro. Inside the lower bag I also had 24 hours of AyUp batteries (two 6 hour and four 3 hour), 2 small bottles of Stan’s, 2 Big Air cartridges with one head, one tube wrapped in Tyvek, and a 15 year old Pur Hiker water filter in its original stuff sack with some tablets of some sort. I also had a bottle of sunscreen and a pair of light ski gloves crammed in there.
I had a small white blinky and about 5 feet of 1′ wide Gorilla tape wrapped around my seatpost.
I weighed my loaded bike at a shop in Crested Butte and it was 41 pounds. I think that with more food and the few things I added before the race, I was around 45. My backpack ranged from 11 to probably around 20 depending on how many sodas and snacks I packed in it. It was definitely at it’s heaviest after Buena Vista.
My daily routine was a key to my success. Each morning I would eat a light snack while packing up my gear. I would trade my sleep knickers for my shorts and knee warmers but leave my wool tee on and usually wear my puff jacket and rain jacket. I’d shed clothing as necessary and when the sun eventually hit me, I’d put my bike jersey back on and apply sunscreen….which got to be pretty gross. Usually I’d wait until the sun hit me to stop to eat breakfast.
I’d lube my chain about twice a day. The only issues I had with my bike were too much air in my tires which I relieved on the second day never to touch them again the entire ride, and on my second morning my rear dropouts had come loose. Once tightened, they were never an issue. I don’t consider the worn out brake pads on the descent into Silverton to be an “issue” as it was to be expected and it only took me about 5 minutes to get them changed out.
Occasionally during the day I’d apply Okole Stuff to my bum. It’s lanolin based so you don’t need much.
Each evening I’d make sure I had a full’ish water bladder, throw an MRE in the heater, and prepare my sleep gear which included cleaning my crotch with anti-bacterial wipes and changing out of my bike shorts into my sleep clothing. I’d also apply my saddle sore meds. I won’t get too detailed on that, but my persistent sore is an ingrown hair which my doc says I should get cauterized. The meds work really well and it never got much larger than a small pea during the ride. While sitting on my inflated pad, I’d eat, drink, brush teeth, cram everything back into my bag, and then pass out using my pack as a pillow. My 4th night of sleep I crashed out in my bike shorts and knee warmers. I figured I’d only be down for a couple of hours, it was most likely my last night of sleep, and I was really trying to pick up the pace wherever possible.
I went to my second pair of shorts the morning I awoke on Seargents Mesa. I rinsed my jersey a couple of times. Once was on Molas before Blackhawk. I was really hot and it was less of a wash than a soaking to help keep me cool. It was pretty hot up there. I’d also rinse my face and hair whenever in a bathroom with running water or if it wasn’t too cold when I was filtering water. My head itched a lot and I really got tired of wearing my helmet. I also changed my socks at Princeton hot springs during the shoe/blister episode. I left my dirty socks in the trash as they had holes in them.
I think the gear I was most thankful for was the light ski gloves I purchased a couple days before the ride. If I hadn’t had them I would not have been able to ride that second night in the rain. They were very comfortable on my hands as well and probably wore them as much as my regular gloves. I finished the ride with a serious callous on both palms.
I can’t say that my feet suffered, but the numbness I experienced after the AZT returned on day 3. The blister on my left foot was pretty prominent at the half way point. I layer of Gorilla tape helped and I knew nothing worse could happen to it, but it prevented me from descending in a heels down position. This caused a bit of stress on my left calf, but for some reason, I didn’t really care and it didn’t really slow me down on the descents. It couldn’t have been that bad because my calf never really hurt when hiking/pushing or when stomping on the pedals.
My “competitive” days are in the past and I’ve done my best to bury or at least suppress my ego over the past few years. I’ve got no secrets and would hope that others thinking of doing a bikepacking race or who have failed to finish something like the AZT 300 or the CTR can glean some beta from me that will help them be successful. Bikepacking adventures require an enormous amount of time and effort. To me, failing to finish or accomplish a reasonable goal is unacceptable. The great thing about bikepacking is that scenarios and options are constantly changing. Success depends on being flexible and making quick and wise decisions. It’s not like that bullshit world cup crap where a dab in one turn can mean the difference between finishing all the laps or being pulled on your third of 8 laps. You’ve got lots of time. Utilizing it all in a wise and patient manner will bring you to a great finish with a great experience under your belt.